Canon USA debuted a video calling platform with a difference at this year’s CES. ‘Kokomo’ transports you into a virtual world, just the way you are.
Do you believe in good fortune? The kinds of happy accidents that come about by chance? Canon USA’s Kohei Maeda does. And, like us all, he’s watched as two years of a pandemic have taken their toll on what he beautifully describes as “the serendipity of the water cooler”. Those fortuitous little passing conversations we have with our colleagues that can result in surprising outcomes or excellent, creative ideas. And he should know – one such conversation resulted in a brand-new solution for Canon USA.
“So, here’s a true story. Before the pandemic I was working late in the office by myself on a boring job and a colleague found me in the dark because he could see my laptop light. He was bored too, so we talked about how we can make our life fun. Then we discussed what we could do at Canon – Why don’t we make a Star Wars Jedi Master Meeting solution? Because Canon has projectors and cameras, we can do that! That could be such fun!” Sounds just like two colleagues joking around, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. That was the core concept of AMLOS.
AMLOS is an acronym of ‘Activate My Line Of Sight’ and it’s a hybrid meeting and collaboration solution. With only one camera, it can create multiple video streams that present many different views of a meeting – the entire room, the presenter, a whiteboard – or it can zoom in on a specific zone of interest, like a prototype, for example. Which is obviously a great way to open up the room to remote collaborators. But it doesn’t shout ‘Jedi Master’ until you discover that it operates using gesture recognition technology. Kohei explains: “Imagine there’s an AMLOS camera in the office and a conversation starts by chance, but they need to involve a person who is working remotely that day. All they need to do is face the camera and make one gesture. Then the AMLOS system recognises the person in the office space and then, based on this gesture, creates a Microsoft Teams meeting spontaneously.”
So, one person makes a gesture and everyone in the room receives a Teams invitation on their mobile device or laptop, and then this can be rapidly extended to remote colleagues. These colleagues will join the meeting through the AMLOS browser user interface, which displays multiple video screens that can change the view to suit the way they wish to engage with the conversation. The speed at which a spontaneous chat can take place is fast enough to give remote colleagues a real sense of being considered and included in that moment. And once they are within AMLOS, whoever is in front of the camera can keep them on top of everything that is happening in the room just with the movement of their hand. “If you have something you want to show to the remote participant, all you need to do is use the open hand gesture to direct the camera and AMLOS will automatically create a new video screen of this zoom.”
As well as addressing the lack of serendipitous exchanges of ideas, Kohei believes that AMLOS has the potential to foster a renewed sense of belonging in hybrid working teams. When a remote colleague feels an absence of all the information during a video call, it creates what he calls an “information gap” that prevents them from engaging deeply in any conversations. It is these gaps that are creating an uncomfortable distance between team members – not just geographically, but in the way that they creatively connect. “Currently, we tend to find it difficult to involve colleagues who are working remotely,” he explains. “Many things go forward without them, and this affects their sense of belonging.” Clearly, in the long-term, this will also affect the way in which the team bonds and works together, and this can – and does – influence everything from collaboration and productivity to how long team members stay with the organisation.
And to think that this exciting development is something of a baton-passing moment. One where Kohei is now potentially sharing the benefits of his own serendipitous meeting with teams everywhere. “And if we did not meet at that time, in a dark office, I would never have thought that Canon could create this type of video collaboration solution. Not everything can happen in a planned meeting,” he reflects. “Something happens when conversations start by chance and that’s the element that creates innovation. It’s difficult to quantify, but we think it’s something we shouldn’t miss. That’s why AMLOS is really important for all of us.”